Lamont Weekly Report, May 18, 2018

    Commencement events at Columbia University this week marked important milestones for many of our students, notwithstanding the week’s storm fronts and rainfall totals. To all with new degrees, congratulations!

    The Geochemistry Division this week welcomed Léonard Boncenne, a visiting graduate student from the École Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées (ENSTA) ParisTech, one of the top engineering schools in France. He is visiting Lamont through mid-August to complete a research internship with Galen McKinley’s group on the evaluation of ecosystem models for a new coupled physical-biogeochemical model of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

    A number of Lamont’s seismologists are offshore or on the Alaska Peninsula this week, as part of the first deployment stage of the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment (AACSE). This major project, funded through the National Science Foundation’s GeoPRISMS Program, involves the installation of 85 broadband ocean-bottom seismometers (OBSs) and 30 broadband onshore seismometers to study the processes that control the generation of major earthquakes along the most active subduction zone in the U.S. Lamont’s entire OBS group, including Andrew Barclay, Carlos Becceril, Ted Koczynski, Pete Liljegren, and Walt Masterson, are aboard the R/V Sikuliaq and approximately midway through the deployment of 45 of the experiment’s OBSs. At the same time, Donna Shillington and Geoff Abers are traversing Kodiak Island by car and plane to deploy 13 onshore seismometers. Updates of progress both at sea and on land can be found on the AACSE blog ( As part of an associated project, Spahr Webb is also aboard the Sikuliaq deploying innovative seafloor GPS instruments to measure tectonic deformation associated with the subduction system.

    This week featured the completion of annual performance reviews for members of the Observatory’s scientific staff. On Monday, I met with Lamont’s Associate Directors, Art Lerner-Lam, Virginia Maher, Kuheli Dutt, Kim Schermerhorn, and Victoria Carrasco to discuss the reviews of all of our scientists. As in past years, the exercise provided an affirming overview of the progress that we have made toward our research and educational missions over the past year.

    Also on Monday, Lamont’s web site gained a photo essay by Kevin Krajick on recent fieldwork in Barbados by Maureen Raymo, Jacky Austermann, Miranda Cashman, Blake Dyer, Steve Goldstein, Robert Poirier, Michael Sandstrom, and others on the history of sea level recorded in the tectonically uplifted fossil reefs of the island. The story is accompanied by a video interview of Mo, on the Barbados shoreline, and more than 30 photos of the fieldwork (

    On Wednesday, Park Williams gave an outreach talk to the Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich, Connecticut, on climate change and its impact on droughts, wildfires, and the forests of western North American – as well as the climate of southern Connecticut. Greenwich Time carried a lengthy story on the talk, including multiple photos of Park and his audience during the lecture (

    On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill that includes funding for NSF, NASA, and NOAA in federal fiscal year 2019. Science agency budgets are well above those in the President’s budget. Joel Widder from Federal Science Partners reports that the NSF budget in the bill is $408 million above the 2018 enacted level, and that for NASA is $810 million above the 2018 enacted level. For NOAA, in contrast, the overall budget is $751 million below the 2018 enacted level and includes nearly a 40% reduction in funding for climate research. Although this bill is an important step in the federal budget process, there are many other steps that must follow. As ever, this is a good time to let your Congressional representatives know your views of the importance of federal investment in scientific research.

    Einat Lev, much in demand by the media this week for her commentary on the ongoing eruption along the East Rift Zone of Kilauea volcano, was mentioned in a Fox News story Tuesday ( With support from an NSF Rapid Response award, Einat left for Hawaii on Wednesday – along with Brett Carr and Julie Oppenheimer – to study the eruption with the aid of drones equipped with imaging systems and gas sensors. Einat wrote yesterday, “We arrived last night and spent today with the Fire Department and the disaster response teams. The teams we joined collected video of lava fountaining from a fissure, and measured SO2 and CO2 in the air with drone-mounted sensors provided by Wade McGillis. We are hoping in the next few days to map the previous and new lava flows if we get close enough to them. The levels of SO2 have been very high close to the fissures and flows.”

    The Earth Science Colloquium spring season has ended, and I hope that you will join me in thanking outgoing Colloquium Coordinator Marco Tedesco and outgoing Colloquium Organizing Committee members Bridgit Boulahanis and Jean Guo for a terrific year. The Colloquium Coordinator for the 2018-2019 academic year will be Radley Horton, and the Colloquium Organizing Committee will include new members Christine Chesley and Una Miller, along with continuing members Genevieve Coffey, Laura Haynes, Elise Myers, and Lucy Tweed. Please send suggestions for Colloquium speakers for the coming year to any member of the committee.

    This afternoon will feature Lamont’s spring Fun Run. Organizers Genevieve Coffey, Chloe Gustafson, and Michael Sandstrom have added, for the first time, a 4x400 m relay among divisional teams, to start at 3:30 pm in front of Lamont Hall. The relay will be followed by the usual 5k race. Prizes are being offered for greatest divisional participation, fastest division (with individual times normalized by age and gender), fastest male, fastest female, and fastest individual with age and gender normalizations included.

    Following the Fun Run will be Lamont’s annual Research as Art Exhibition. The event features artistic photos, videos, and three-dimensional sculptures from the world of science ( and will be held in the Comer Atrium and Seminar Room. This year’s organizers include Anna Barth, Bar Oryan, Josh Russell, Henry Towbin, and Maayan Yehudai. I hope that you have an opportunity to view the creative side of our campus colleagues.